Wednesday, 5 December 2012

But What Will They Say When We're Gone?

I heard the tale of a long serving assistant around whom the entire operation revolved.  Nothing moved unless it had her stamp of approval, and in time nothing was created without her fingerprints all over it.  Give up any bit of control?  Not on her life.  People quit doing business with, or working for the company rather than deal with her.  And she was not management, not front line and possessed only institutional knowledge - she knew what she knew because it was all that she knew.

Eventually she overstayed her welcome, making one too many demand, playing one too many department heads against each other, and she was forced to flee to "a better job."  Many people mourned her loss and wondered how the company would ever survive without it's "heart and soul."  Many, many more kept silent and held their breath until she had walked out of the door for the last time.

And then life went on.  People discovered work unfinished.  Her manager began to realise just how many times she had thwarted his leadership.  The final landmine left for her successor was defused.  They're still cleaning up the mess she left behind, and some relationships will never be healed.

I like to occasionally use "hit by a bus" thinking - what would they find if I didn't have time to clean it up one last time because I was unexpectedly hit by a bus on my way back from Starbucks?  Am I proud of what I would leave behind?  Is there anything that needs to be fixed/cleaned up/finished RIGHT NOW?

Most of us are not like the exec assistant in our story.  They'll say good things about us after we're gone.

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